Saturday, March 03, 2012

Myths, Lies... What's The Difference-- It's How The Republican Party Rolls


You may have noticed that I've been reading Joshua Holland's terrific book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies About The Economy. Of course there are way more than 15 lies the Republicans routinely use to persuade low-info voters that their toxic, one-percenter agenda is somehow good for ordinary Americans, but Holland manages to organize them in such a way that 15 super-groups stand out as the most lethal to American families. This week Alan Grayson took a stab at his own list-- The Myths That Are Killing Us. He actually gets the list down to an even dozen!

As the Republican demolition derby rolls on, I continue to be amused by how each remaining contender tries to assume the “small government” mantle.
Mitt Romney wants a government so small that it provides universal health care.
Newt Gingrich wants a government so small that it will establish a permanent base on the Moon.
Rick Santorum wants a government so small that it will fit inside a woman’s uterus.
The only real remaining advocate of small government is Ron Paul. Dr. Paul appears to be disqualified from the Republican Presidential Primary, however, because he is unwilling to drench himself with the blood of our imagined enemies, like Gerard Butler in the movie 300.
But what about that Jon Huntsman guy? This week three different people told me, quite independently of each other, how sorry they were that Governor Huntsman never gained any traction in the Republican Presidential Primary.
I told them that they should get over it. Huntsman wasn’t any better.
It somehow counts as an act of courage for Huntsman to have tweeted: “I believe in evolution.” Of course, it would have been more courageous if Huntsman had said that to a Tea Party audience, and then they tore him limb from limb, thereby disproving the theory of evolution right before our eyes.
And evolution is not something that you “believe” or “disbelieve.” Evolution is like gravity; it’s not like Santa Claus or the Abominable Snowman. (Question: Why do they both live at the North Pole?)
Be that as it may, neither Huntsman nor any other Republican Presidential candidate has been willing to take on the hard myths. The myths that are killing us. Here are a dirty dozen, right off the top of my head:

(1) The Government can’t create jobs. (Tell that to FDR, who created four million jobs in three months.)

(2) Tax cuts reduce the deficit. (Doesn’t it bother them that a man named “Laffer” came up with this one?)

(3) A fetus is a baby.

(4) The poor have too much money.

(5) Cutting the federal deficit will end the recession.

(6) The rich are incentivized by tax cuts, while the poor are incentivized by lower wages, no benefits, an end to the minimum wage, and unemployment.

(7) An unwanted child is God’s will.

(8) Everyone who wants health insurance has it.

(9) The problem with education is the teachers.

(10) The “free market” satisfies every human need.

(11) There is no discrimination in America anymore.

(12) The distribution of wealth and income are irrelevant.
I don’t remember Jon Huntsman disputing any of these myths. And these are the ones that do the real damage. Show me a candidate who is willing to take on these myths, and I’ll pay more attention.

And that's why Blue America has paid so much attention to Alan Grayson. His career has taken on all these myths-- and taken them on powerfully and successfully. Perhaps it's why he won both the Blue America candidates contest last month and the DFA Grassroots Allstars run-off this week. And it's why I'd like to ask you, once again, to help put Alan back into the U.S. Congress, something you can do, here at the Blue America page.

In the second chapter of his book, "It's Not Your Fault There Aren't Enough Good Jobs," it's as though Holland was anticipating Grayson's critique of the Republican policy agenda-- which, of course, is simply the policy agenda of the plutocrats, oligarchs and ruling elites.
It’s difficult to argue that a wealthy country such as the United States should have a threadbare social safety net-- arguably the weakest of any advanced economy-- simply because the well-heeled want to keep their tax bills low. So conservatives instead claim that when government steps in to make working people’s lives a bit easier, it only ends up hurting them by nurturing a “culture of dependency." They say food stamps, minimum wages, and programs for the poor sap one’s will to go out there, work hard, and make something of oneself. It’s the proverbial “nanny state,” and for the Right, avoiding its harms generally trumps other concerns, often including common sense.

In 2010, with millions out of work, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) blocked a bipartisan bill to extend unemployment benefits. The Washington Post reported that in defense of his colleague, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) “told the Senate he questioned why anyone would see unemployment benefits as helpful to the economy, or to the job market.”

Kyle remarked, “If anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.” It’s actually a tenable argument in countries that offer decent unemployment benefits. But in the United States, a married worker with kids will get half of his or her wages replaced on unemployment, one of the lowest rates in the developed world. Nobody’s living the high life.

But that doesn’t trump right-wing columnist Jonah Goldberg in providing the most jaw-dropping example of letting ideology trump human empathy. In the wake of the earthquake that decimated Haiti, leaving 300,000 of that poor country’s inhabitants dead and millions more displaced, Goldberg argued that what Haiti really needed was not immediate assistance and lots of it, but some “tough love.” Jonah blamed the foreign aid that Haitians had received before the quake for creating “a poverty culture” and concluded, “It’s hardly news that poverty makes people vulnerable to the full arsenal of Mother Nature’s fury.”

In 2007, when Congress passed a bill that would have expanded a highly popular program that offers health insurance to poor kids-- with an overwhelming bipartisan majority-- then president George W. Bush vetoed the measure. He admitted that he had no problem at all with the program itself but argued on purely ideological grounds that “the policies of the government ought to be to help people find private insurance, not federal coverage. And that’s where the philosophical divide comes in.”

Now, the idea that “dependency” is what makes people poor might make some sense if we were all born with the same opportunities to get ahead. Tragically, however, that American dream is dead, or, at the very least, it lies broken and bleeding on the side of the road. In today’s economy, the single greatest predictor of how much an American child will earn in the future is how much his or her parents take home. Working Americans have essentially bought into a unique social contract: they forgo much of the economic security that citizens of other wealthy countries take for granted in exchange for a more “dynamic,” meritorious economy that supposedly offers them plenty of opportunities to succeed. Of course, this is never explicitly stated, and most of us don’t know about the deal, but it’s
reinforced all the time in our economic discourse.

The belief that our chances of moving up the economic ladder are limited only by our innate abilities and our appetite for hard work is almost universal in the United States. Around 3 percent of Americans are actually millionaires (or were before the crash of 2008), but in 2003, almost one in three Americans told Gallup that they expected to be millionaires at some point in their lives. A 2006 poll found that more than half of those surveyed believed “Almost anyone can get rich if they put their mind to it.”

Contrary to that popular notion, the United States is not a meritocracy, and Americans are getting the worst of both worlds-- not only is a significant portion of the middle class hanging on by the narrowest of threads, not only do fewer working people have secure retirements to look forward to, not only are nearly one in seven Americans uninsured, but working people also enjoy fewer opportunities to pull themselves up by their bootstraps than do the citizens of other advanced countries.

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At 3:58 AM, Blogger Stephen Kriz said...

Great post. I wish someone, anyone, would publicize the fact that every single Republican presidential candidate's so-called economic plan would balloon the federal budget deficit more than Obama's! Every.Single.One.

Isn't this useful information for voters???


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